Surfer’s Ear - A guide to Hearing Loss

No, this is not an internet related condition but one related to over exposure to cold weather and water whilst surfing in the sea. The ear can become waterlogged as a result of this constant exposure which then irritates the delicate lining of the ear canal. This leads to excess production of a bony material found underneath this lining called ‘exostosis’. These bony growths start to obstruct the ear canal which then impairs hearing.

Surfers, swimmers and anyone who spends a long time in the water is prone to this condition.

Symptoms of surfer’s ear

As these growths develop and start to block the ear canal then the first and most obvious sign is hearing loss. But another equally important sign is that of repeated ear infections.

Other symptoms include:

  • Build up of ear wax which the ear finds difficult to eliminate as per normal.
  • Ear infections which take longer to clear by themselves due to the fact that the site of the infection cannot drain away from the ear.
  • Popping noises in your ear.
  • Awareness of water in your ear when you move your head.

If you are a keen surfer and find that you are constantly picking up ear infections or that you are having difficulty hearing certain sounds or conversations then you may have surfer’s ear.

Treatment for surfer’s ear

Surgery is usually performed in which the offending growths are removed in a procedure called an ‘exostectomy’. This involves making an incision behind the ear and using a drill to remove this bone.

However, there is a modern procedure in which the surgeon accesses these growths through the ear canal. He/she uses specialist chisels to remove the bone and any excess ear wax.

Antibiotics may be prescribed if there is the presence of an infection.

This is a more complex procedure which requires a great deal of experience and expertise but it can mean a shorter recovery period.

You will be advised to avoid surfing or any form of water sport for several weeks following surgery until your ear canal has properly healed. Not being able to surf during this time will be difficult but you need to allow your ears to heal before you do so. It’s a good idea to take a few precautions in the future to prevent this condition from recurring. These growths may grow back so protect the ear canal from cold and water. A neoprene swimming cap or ear plugs can help. Some surfers use Blu-tack although you might think this is a bit too extreme.

Hearing Loss

Medic8® Guides

© Medic8® | All Rights Reserved